ARCHIVED—How to be Better Than Good
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When considering how to make an outcome-based evaluation system work, Wayne Phillips and his colleagues decided that they needed a way to motivate students so that they were always trying to turn in their best work.
The staff began with the slogan, "Good, better, best: never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best"—a favourite saying of the principal's father.
In his classroom, Phillips made the words good, better and best the foundation of his efforts, building large tri-fold signs displaying each word and standing them on the floor. During literary circle, students self-evaluate their work by placing it in a pile near the sign they believe best describes the quality of what they have done.
The class then evaluates each piece, deciding whether to place it in a different category, based on a rubric, which Phillips explains ahead of time. He also talks with students about how to give and receive constructive criticism. This helps keep the evaluations fact-based, he explains, which is particularly useful during the inevitably negative reviews.
In addition to the rubrics, the students refer to exemplars of top-quality work. Phillips uses exemplars from the previous year, and encourages students to make the case for their peers' work to become the new exemplars.
One unexpected benefit of this, Phillips says, is that the exemplars have improved from year to year: students see them as something to surpass.
Phillips has noticed that at the beginning of the school year, most of the students' work ends up in the "better" pile. As the students get a better grasp of how to meet the required objectives, more work is classified as "best." As a rule, very little work ends up in the "good" column. "The whole purpose of the exercise is to emphasize that we should always aim higher than good enough."
And what about the work that doesn't meet the good requirements? "We have an 'oops' category," explains Phillips. "Everyone has a bad day now and then."